The Holiday Season Is Upon Us: Top Retail Trends in 2018

As the year comes to an end, retailers have one thing on their minds: maximizing the peak shopping season. Between consumers shopping for Christmas gifts and preparing for holiday festivities, sales spike in November and December. Even more so, NRF expected this year’s retail sales to increase nearly 5% over 2017. In addition to a higher percentage of sales, more competition between retailers also ensues. Vying to stand out, notable retailers and brands have proved their value to consumers with a few innovative trends.

Taking the cake in 2018 are those who understand what their customers want and deliver the highest quality in response.

A Personalized Approach Goes a Long Way

In today’s on-demand economy, traditional deals won’t capture shopper’s attention alone. Instead, customized apps and email promotions help on-the-go consumers know what discounts are available ahead of time.

In my own personal holiday shopping this season, Nordstrom’s app has helped me stay up to date on which products are on sale. Furthermore, the app creates a personalized “looks” page that generates outfits based on a profile I’ve created. As I shop for friends and family and snag last minute outfits, the app has been a lifesaver. Browsing online gives me insight into what items are in stock at the store closest to me. When I’m in a crunch and know what I want, I can easily place an order online. If I’m unsure about a size, I can reserve up to 10 items online and swing by the store to try them on. Needless to say, personalized apps go a long way when the holiday season rolls around.

Apps are taking over, but email marketing isn’t a lost cause either. While clogged inboxes aren’t exactly a shopper’s dream, I’ve enjoyed receiving specialized discount codes from my favorite retailers this month. In many cases, I’ve bought something online or stopped by the store to browse because of the emails I’ve received.

Social Media Drives Results

The cellphone is an integral part of the modern-day shopping experience. Specifically, social media platforms have a dominant hold on users. According to the 2018 Holiday Social Marketing Trends report, 56% of consumers said a brand’s social media presence affected holiday purchase decisions. Additionally, 79% of marketers planned to run a holiday campaign on social this year. Out of those who ran a holiday ad campaign last year, 88% of marketers said it was effective. Hence, the strategy seems to work in most cases.

This year, retailers from various industries are getting in on the action. Companies are using relevant hashtags and Instagram stories to capitalize on increased shopping. Target, for example, features a “Gift Ideas” highlight on Instagram to offer some ideas based on who shoppers are buying for from babies to teachers. Though this is a practical approach to increasing awareness among customers, some brands are going for a more emotional effect.

Air Canada pulls on heartstrings with an ad showing emotional reunions as airline passengers come home for the holidays, associated with the hashtag #FlyTheFlag. The Instagram community took to the video with nearly 5,000 likes.

VR and AR Give Glimpse Into Retail’s Future

A recent addition to the holiday marketing repertoire is enhanced reality. Whether virtual or augmented, the technology is gaining traction among retailers. Most noteworthy, Facebook launched augmented reality camera effects for ad campaigns over the summer. This holiday season, Office Depot is using the technology to offer “Elf Yourself” ads. With this feature, consumers can animate themselves with elf-like effects.

An even more immersive and novel experience is virtual reality. Though more of an enigma, we can expect more VR experiences in retail’s future. Macy’s is an early adopter of the technology, launching “See Your Space IRL”  in time for the holidays. Available in about 70 Macy’s locations, shoppers can use a VR headset to envision a room in their home and experiment with different furniture pieces.

All in all, holiday shopping has come a long way from overnight campout sessions outside of stores to catch the latest deals. With a more digital, customer-centric approach, securing the season’s top purchases is a bit more seamless. Don’t get me wrong, I still think holiday shopping is a stressful time of year, but I’m thankful that so many retailers have stepped it up in hopes of a more fun and less chaotic experience.

Digital Retail’s Brightest Take Over Seattle This Week for 2014

The annual summit is already underway, and it has been a fast and furious few days for the team here at Ketner Group and our wonderful and innovative clients who are exhibiting at the show this week. The months and weeks leading up to was full of planning sessions, scheduling meetings with media and analysts and preparing show announcements for our clients. This is a very exciting time of year for the KG team as it represents the unofficial kick-off of the holiday shopping season. We are working with all of our clients on some really exciting holiday-themed campaigns over the next few months, but more on that in another blog post! is a must-attend event for anyone in digital retail. In their own words, it is “a 2½ day event specifically for digital and multichannel retailers. Get the rush of discovering new ideas, getting actionable takeaways and building strong relationships with the brightest and most innovative players in the digital retail world.” The more than 5,200 attendees, 280 exhibitors and 100+ speakers represent the entire digital and multichannel retail community: senior management, marketers, merchandisers and solution providers.

In the first two days alone, attendees have had a chance to participate in various keynote sessions, roundtables and panels. Highlights include:

  • Jamie Nordstrom of Nordstrom speaking on the importance of evolving with your customer or “you die”
  • The story featuring leading Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru and veteran Silicon Valley journalist and author, Brad Stone
  • A special NRF members-only session focusing on “Decoding the New Consumer Mind”

To see the latest and greatest news, tweets and photos from – click here!

For those of you still in Seattle and need some advice on a successful (or if you have some free time available before your flight home) check out’s blog, “12 Tips for Making the Most of the Summit.”

Video Courtesy of

SXSW Interactive 2013: Mobile First

This blog is reposted from Digby’s The Mobile Retail Blog.

By Kirsty Hughan, Digby

Austin, Texas has just finished playing host to one of the most innovative and forward-thinking technology conferences in the world. South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSWi)  is a five day conference and trade show dedicated to the advancement of digital creativity and hosts sessions by industry leaders addressing cutting-edge concepts unfolding in the world of technology.

Mobile has been an exponentially growing industry in the last few years, both in widespread use as well as capability. We’ve seen mobile websites, apps and commerce explode, but what should we expect to see next in the push toward a highly mobile-centric society? This is what we’ve learned from our sessions at SXSWi.

Location, Push Notifications and Relevancy

In the U.S., 74% of smartphone owners use their phones to access real-time location–based information. Roe McFarlane, VP of Product Innovation and Customer Experience at Redbox spoke Saturday on the hyper-relevancy and personalization location adds to marketing. McFarlane discussed the personalization already intricate to Redbox’s mobile application, which allows users to create wishlists of movies they look forward to watching and favorite their nearest Redbox locations. But he also discussed the incredible future mobile has, mentioning how convenient it would be to receive a push notification as you drove by your favorite Redbox location letting you know that Spiderman is available for rental.

McFarlane also spoke about interesting joint advertising opportunities brought on by understanding location. Since Redbox locations rely on local vendors, the two have a symbiotic relationship. It is frequent that a drugstore displays popcorn, candy, and soda next to its Redbox location, encouraging visitors to stock up for movie night. McFarlane suggested pushing coupons to customers visiting a Redbox, offering them a discount on a bag of Doritos.

Retail: Going Mobile

Retailers, motivated by fears of showrooming are now engaging customers in and out of the store. A number of retailers and brands including Starbucks, ABC, WWE, and Redbox emphasized the need to contextually and personally engage customers through mobile, a technology that has the benefit of being always present with its owner.

A number of emerging trends in store including mobile point-of-sale, in-app check-out, and digital signage.  Starbucks’s Category Manager Dana Kruse discussed the opportunity mobile opens up between baristas and regular customers.  As the ordering and checkout process becomes more seamless, customers are freed from check out process in order to check in with their local barista and build a relationship.

Personalization was another key trend in mobile because of its ability to link to loyalty programs and customize content.  Both Tina Prause, Senior Director of Mobile Products at WWE and Peter Roybal, Product Management for ABC mentioned the success they have had in allowing users to customize their own experience.  In particular, Roybal mentioned how ABC’s mobile app allows users to follow specific news sources and receive push notifications updating them on how the news is evolving.

Consolidation & Specialization

At SXSWi, it is always interesting to learn about new apps that have been launched and the ones that stand out this year offer consolidated personal and business solutions.

pplconnect is a virtual smartphone app that allows you to tap into your personal information from any device with WiFi and urges consumers to pursue “mobile freedom,” a positive thing for Americans, who are constantly on the go.

Industry leaders also expressed a need for specialization in mobile commerce and sharing. Giving users the ability to search locally for services and products based on location and preferred cost not only customizes a purchase, but supports local merchants and small business. Zaarly is a mobile app that offers handpicked and highly specialized merchants, services and products using a smartphone application as the primary channel for search and purchase.

Lastly, the app on everyone’s lips was Uber, an app that not only makes it easy to find a nearby private driver but makes riding a private car seamless. By providing private drivers with their own smartphone with Uber installed, drivers and riders can quickly find each other. Further, riders can plug in where they are going and pay for the service on the spot, making trips quicker and less confusing.

Kirsty Hughan is Digby‘s Marketing Manager and as such is excited by the opportunity mobile provides to finally allow for a 1:1 marketing strategy for brands.  To stay in touch, you can find her on Digby’s FacebookTwitter or the Digby Blog.

The Mobile (Presidential) Election of 2012

mobile-pres-election-blog-imageAs originally posted on The Mobile Retail Blog

It’s hard to imagine that in a little over two weeks, our country will have elected (or re-elected) a new president. What a difference four years makes. For example, just here at the Ketner Group, the team has definitely gone through its share of changes and life-changing moments – we’ve had one new baby, two marriages, two cross-country moves to California and Texas, and have bought seven new cars!

Other things have changed, too, especially on the technology front. Thinking back to the 2008 election, or what is known as “The Social Media” election, Facebook and Twitter were a key factor into President Obama’s election win.  In fact, it was his campaign team who pioneered the use of social media for organizing, fundraising, and communicating his 2008 White House bid. And boy did it work! Continue reading

What Will Retailers Do with 2.7 Million Tablets?

If anyone needed more proof that mobile is the hottest trend in retail, RIS News reported this week that the percentage of consumers who made purchases with mobile phones doubled from 2010 to 2011, from 9% to 18%. STORES devoted almost its entire November issue to mobility, too. These are just a couple of additional proof points for the meteoric rise of consumer mobility, which Retail Systems Research describes as the “most galvanizing force (in a positive way) we’ve ever seen in retail.”

Mobile technology is changing the retail landscape in ways that haven’t been seen since the rise of e-commerce. However, the trend that’s captured my attention lately is what’s happening with mobile devices inside the store – and more specifically, how retailers are using smartphones and tablets inside the stores.

A recent research study from retail analyst firm IHL Group included a fascinating statistic. According to IHL’s survey, more than 2.7 million tablet devices will be shipped for use in North American retail and hospitality by 2015, an increase of 450% over current rates. These figures don’t even take into account the handheld devices that retailers are scrambling to roll out in mobile POS deployments.

The bottom line? Get ready to see millions of tablets and smartphones in retail stores in the next few years, along with fundamental changes in everything from the physical layout of stores to the way that consumers interact with store associates.

61% of retailers surveyed by IHL Group rate mobile technology as their top priority, so what we’ve seen so far in store-based mobile systems is just the beginning.

Early mobile deployments at retailers such as Urban Outfitters, Home Depot, Nordstrom and others have focused primarily on the ways that mobile can improve the store experience. These retailers are looking to mobile devices to get their sales associates out from behind the cash wrap and onto the sales floor, where they can interact with customers, guide the shopping experience, look up product reviews and ratings, and check inventory on out-of-stocks in order to save the sale.  Early deployments are promising, but the changes we’ve seen so far are just the tip of the iceberg. Continue reading